Solar: The Learning Curve

e=mc/2 = 100 volts/230X67 + 6 batteries and 8 panels now, x the total amount of appliances you have divided by 50 percent of the watts needed to power Las Vegas – 10,000 liters and cubits divided by the number of hours in a typical day in Antarctica figured into whatever parallel you live at and reduce that by another 50 percent and add in the number of teeth your dog has.

That’s the formula for how to calculate how much power you’ll need, how many panels it’s going to take, how many batteries, and how many aspirin you’ll need for your new solar power system.

That is, if you want to use the washer/dryer on Tuesdays rather than Wednesdays and in the spring and not winter. If your preference is winter, redo your calculations and add 1.

End result: Throw your calculator in the garbage, just buy a damned system and figure things out as you go. My head would start spinning while I cruised the websites on calculating power consumption and getting the right system.

I looked at charts of average watts and amps used by various appliances and read about how many watts a solar panel produces and tried my damnedest to figure out how many batteries we’d need (depending on what size) and how configuring them differently would produce more volts or amps or something and less of something else.

I finally gave up and ordered the basic four panel starter kit from Windy Nation. After setting it up, we quickly discovered we needed more panels so I ordered four more along with a second charge controller.

I dug the calculator out of the trash and redid my calculations.

This time I came up with a number that clearly showed we were now at about a third of what we would need to produce 100 percent of our own power.

learning curve

Don’t get me wrong. I love solar power. After the initial cost it’s free! You can’t get better than that. I’m chomping at the bit for more panels. I’m still not sure about the number of batteries though. I’m pretty sure we’ll need more of those too and possibly a larger inverter.

For the time being though, we have a solid compliment to our current power system which is the generator.

You really do learn as you go. The best calculations can’t teach you real world experience. We’re learning about how long we can power the RV and with what appliances. We quickly learned that if an appliance has a mechanical part that must move, it takes a bunch of electricity to do that. A general rule: if it moves it eats power.

We replaced all the regular bulbs with LEDs and installed the infamous gas water heater Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero, and are looking for a propane refrigerator. This is all just a period of tweaking. Give us a couple more months and more panels and we’ll be good to go.

Do I recommend solar? You betcha. Just be prepared for the brain-busting calculating (it might come easy to you), and be ready to learn as you go.

Hopefully your learning curve won’t be tied in knots like ours.